It’s spring! Time to huddle indoors under artificial lights and admire the flowers! While the Boston Flower & Garden Show does possess many sterling qualities, a natural setting is not one of them. Held in Boston’s Seaport World Trade Center, the Flower Show sits indoors in artificial heat and light—which is the only environment most of these plants have ever known anyway. They’re just as man-made as the pretzel dips and attractive combination bird bath/sewer vent covers I saw for sale at the show.

The biggest difference I noticed this year from previous years was the layout. The “gardens”—mounds of greenhouse-forced plants on what I hope are *very* water resistant hidden platforms—are all in a long aisle right down the middle of the show. Wander a few feet away from this central line of greenery and you’re transported from the Emerald City to the Wonderful Land of Commerce. More than 180 sales booths take up far more space than all the gardens, flower arranging competitions, and amateur horticulture displays together.

In previous years, there were a few corners where the plant displays were dense enough that you could at least pretend you were in a show about flowers, not consumerism. But in previous years, the Flower Show was run by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, a group that genuinely cares about gardens and gardeners. Now, the Flower Show is run by the Paragon Group, which also runs truck and golf shows. There seems to have been, shall we say, a reordering of priorities since Paragon took over.

Still, there are some interesting plant exhibits there, as always.

  • The sculpture by Fine Garden Art of Lee, NH, did not involve a single living plant—but I did count three skulls and at least a dozen exoskeletons in the piece. It’s a grand tower of natural stuff that the artist Jill Nooney gathered within 20 miles of her house; horseshoe crabs, three colors of wool, grasses, bark, skulls. It’s hard to describe, but I know that I’m putting Nooney’s garden tours on my calendar.
  • Harding Botanical’s green wall featuring little purple orchids was just plain cute.
  • In lieu of the typical ground-dwelling quail and ducks, this year’s flower show had an owl and raptor exhibit. I suppose these are carnivorous times.
  • This year’s show theme was ““A Burst of Color: Celebrating the Container Garden.” The Best of Show exhibit, by an organization whose name I didn’t quite write down legibly, had what could have been the trunk of a baobab tree as a “container.” I don’t have access to eight-foot-diameter tree stumps for garden decoration, but if I did, I’d want those folks to fill it.
  • The Amateur Horticultural Competition had a nice assortment of “You mean that’s a PLANT?” exhibits. Odd euphorbias, lithops, and a triffid-like trellised walking onion were especially entertaining.
  • And of course there are intriguing lectures (one by Jill Nooney!) and children’s activities.

Most of the constructed landscapes at the show were what an acquaintance called “boulder gardening”: large gray rocks surrounded by tasteful feathery foliage. If you’re going to have a completely artificial environment, why be subtle? They’re not afraid of RED! flowers—or untraditional forms—at Quebec’s Jardins De Metis International Garden Festival. But that exhibit was outdoors.  Perhaps the gray winter weather has affected us all more than we care to admit.